Download A Hundred Years of Japanese Film: A Concise History, with a Selective Guide to DVDs and Videos PDF

TitleA Hundred Years of Japanese Film: A Concise History, with a Selective Guide to DVDs and Videos
ISBN 139784770029959
CategoryArts - Film
File Size39.1 MB
Total Pages329
Document Text Contents
Page 1



"What Boswell was to Johnson, what Gibbon was to ancient Rome,
Donald Richie is to the Japanese cinema."

Page 164

grarldson must rrarry and produce. What they want is a girl child so that they can later
"Adopt" a husband for her as a provisional head of the fanrily-just zu the boy's own father

was adopted-and thus keep power arnong the womeu.

A suitable marriage candidate is found for the grandson, and the grandrrother and lrer

daughter plot the outcome-A charming scene where the two, like little girls, are sitting

before the traditional doll display on Girls' Day, as seemingly innocent as the girl childreu

they are talking about. Later, the two delve into the toilet to try to discover if the uew wife's

rlenstrual cycle has halted, thus heralding the arrival of the wanted child. After they leave,

the catttera regards the gleaming bowl in the half light, as beautiful as a porcelain vase.

We are shown all this with an honestv that is ruthless And, at the sAme time, with a

beautv that transfigllres everything it touches. In this fihr, as iu the others ol't which they
worked together, Ichikawa aud his camerauran, MivagawaKazuo-who shot both Rusho-

tttln and []getsu, atfoug many other films-insist that power and beauty are no strangers.
The iuxtaposition is particularly acute in the scene where, the first child being a bov, the

fitrious granclmother sends the new wif'e back home. It is so quietlv beautiful that one all but

forgives the famil,v its wretched self-interest. It is one long, irlmaculately lit, single scene: five

people talking in the late sumrner ztfternoon.

ln Tbe Sin (Hakai, aka The 0utcast, 1962), a brooding and brutal film about the dis-

crirnination directed against the outcast class, the burakumin, Ichikawa alteruates scenes as

black as the.v are bleak agaiust backgrouuds of euonuolls beaut,v. The morality of this

Ichikawa-Wada fihn is always balanced by its aestheticism. While there were few social

tlteutes as poteutially explosive as that of the urarginalized burakurnin, a form of discrimi-

ruation which still continues in conteltlporary/ Japan, there are few black-and-white fihrs in

postwar Japanese cinema which are s0 colnpositionally perfect, so aesthetically right. The

fihn's appearance inexorably undercuts its meaning.

The Sin,1962,lchikawa Kon, the final snow scene, with lchikawa Raizo, Fujimura Shiho


Page 165

A scerte in which the vollng school teacher "conf'esses" to his pupils that he is of the

pariah sx5tg-a ven/ painlul seqLlence-is followed bv the scelte in which he nrust leave the

snrell ntourttain conuuunitr'. He is met bv the maid at the school, the only one who cared for

hint. Thev sav goodbt,e. Suddenlv it begins to snow. The canrera turns to catch this ntantle

of white slowlv covering the black forests, the dark nrountains. This lovelv nronreut is a

nretaphor for the entiLe filnr-beALrtv covers r darker hidden truth. Aesthetics support
nroralih/-or even take its place.

Ichikawa waited for weeks in his expensive nroLurtain location for that snowfall. Though

sonre directors-O2u, N{izoguchi, and Kurosawa, anlong thenr-would have gotten awav

with spending that much of tlre cor]rpan\"s nronev for reasons that all fihn conlpanies even -

where would regard as bad busiuess, Ichikawa's conrpzur\,, Daiei, dissatisfied with the returns

on his filnts, decided to curb the director's erpensive tendencies.

Anrong the resultzurt indignities was the order to renrake a venerirble tearjerker. This wlu

Art Aclot"s Ret,enge (Yukinojo henge, aka The Revenge of Yukinojo, 1961. The oLiginal was

a nreloclranratic scenario bv Ito Daisuke lvhich had alreadv been filmed before-a three-part

versiorr lrnder the sanre title bv Kinugasa Teinosuke, releusecl in 1935-36. It wzu obviousll,

not a filnr for the nrordant Ichikltwa. Nevertheless, director and scriptwriters saw possibilities
'l.he filnr focuses on Yukinojo, a kabuki actor specializing in fenrale roles, ancl this was

sonrething that iuterested Ichikawa. ht fact, the director's very first pictlue wi6 a puppet ver-

siorr of the sinrilarh'nzured doll dranra llusutrte (1946)-the rnaiclen ztt Dojoji

Tenrple being, 0f course, a nren. The director had alwavs been fond of the stage, puppets,

cultoons, and the like. He was later to interest hirnself in the Italian nrouse plU)pet, Topo

Gigicl, ancl-as he was oLiginallv a graphic artist-he had long nraintained an irtterest in



An Actor's Bevenge, 1963, lchikawa Kon, with Wakao Ayako, Hasegawa Kazuo

Page 328

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ISIIN 4-7700-2995-0

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